Sunday, September 13, 2015

More great unsold pilots

Here are more great unsold pilots. Yesterday I also had a bunch.   From the unsold pilot book by Lee Goldberg.  You can find it here.  Remember, these are all for real.

TAKE ME TO YOUR LEADER    ABC-1964 -- Two aliens from Venus come to earth, meet an inventor, and go into business with him selling to unknowing earthlings products created for another planet.

13 THIRTEENTH AVENUE    CBS-1983 – Similar to one of yesterday’s entries, this one features a widower and his son who move into a Greenwich Village apartment building inhabited by a model who’s a witch, a C.P.A. who’s a werewolf, a lawyer who’s a vampire, a superintendent who’s a troll, and their psychiatrist.

WHERE’S EVERETT?    CBS-1966 -- Alan Alda (of all people) as a young father who goes to get the morning paper and finds that aliens have left an invisible baby on his doorstep. (Oooh, if only I knew about this when I worked with him on MASH…)

YAZOO   NBC-1984 -- William Conrad (the Fat Man from Jake &) is a widowed journalist who goes fishing one day, falls asleep in the boat, and wakes up in a magical world called Yazoo, populated by the Peppercorn Puppets. (I can't believe this one didn't go.) 

AFTER GEORGE   CBS-1983 – Susan Saint James as a widow who discovers her late husband programmed his personality into the computer that operates their house. (MY HUSBAND THE HARD DRIVE)

JUSTIN CASE   ABC-1988 – One of the 12,000 ghost pilots but this one featured the great George Carlin as a ghost private eye.

WHO GOES THERE?   CBS-1965 – Two troublesome ghosts haunting a southern California tract house materialize as General Custer and Indian Chief Running Dog.  (Tract house or crack house?)

IT'S A DOG'S LIFE  NBC-1979 – From the people who brought you ALL IN THE FAMILY comes this tale (tail?) of actors dressed as dogs. (Long before WILFRED)

K-9000   Fox-1989 – A loose cannon on the LAPD has a microchip implanted in his brain by a hot woman scientist allowing him to talk telepathically with his new partner, a genetically-enhanced German shepherd.

POOCHINSKI   NBC-1990 – Dog pilots were also big.  Stanley Poochinski is a tough, ill-mannered cop who has been gunned down in the line of duty and reincarnated as a talking, flatulent English bulldog.

THE ELIZABETH McQUEENY STORY  NBC-1959 – Bette Davis as the leader of an all-female dance troupe that travels through the Old West.

MURDER IN MUSIC CITY  NBC-1979 – I saved the best for last.  Sonny Bono as a Nashville songwriter who becomes a detective. (When he caught the bad guy did he say, “I got you, babe!”?)

37 comments:

VP81955 said...

I vaguely remember hearing about "Justin Case" at the time. Might've been a fun vehicle for George Carlin had it been picked up.

"Yazoo" would have been weird for William Conrad (Marshal Dillon meets puppets!), although he was no stranger to surrealistic humor from narrating "Rock & Bullwinkle."

Ralph C. said...

I mentioned Poochinski yesterday in my comments. The great Peter Boyle was the star of that..um...dog of a pilot. I nearly woofed up my dinner while watching. Dogs everywhere gave it one leg up.

CBS had a special back in the mid-90s hosted by Faith Ford that showed clips from failed pilots. The best one was done by Orson Welles for a proposed anthology series. The pilot was called "Fountain Of Youth" based on the book Youth From Vienna by James Collier. For that time, in 1958, it was a very inventive presentation of a television play. I recommend watching it once, at least. The link should be part 1. There are three parts. Enjoy.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=maDTnpfEglo

Bill Avena said...

"Justin Case" reminds me of 60s series "Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)" I remember Sonny Bono from that sitcom where a former hippie singer becomes a Scientologist/Republican senator.

Peter said...

I'm not as keen on these as the ones yesterday. Not enough crime solving with these ones.

Mike said...

An inept company of puppets stage a vaudeville theatre show. Passed on by every network because the theatre's hecklers were deemed too old for the target demographic. Made in the UK as The Muppet Show. However, the programme was made for the American market and featured a weekly guest star known to Americans. Hence the Sunday tea-time ritual performed all over the UK of "Who's that? Never 'eard of 'em.".

Too old for the demographic? David Renwick pitches the excellent Jonathan Creek to CBS. On the bright side, if taken up, Creek would have gone the Episodes route and been transformed into Banacek.
"So, Dave, this guy Creek? Bit of a nerd, lives on his own in a windmill, wears a dufflecoat and is awkward around women. That doesn't really work for us."

For 13 Thirteenth Avenue, there's the successful Being Human (UK, 2008-2013). A flatshare between a ghost, a werewolf and a vampire.

Finally, it has to be said: Where's Everett? "Why is Everett still crying? Have you put the bottle in the right end?" Nappy changing is a 3 episode arc.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

How about THE ORPHAN AND THE DUDE, starring the other Captain Benjamin Pierce?

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IEf3YnneXmc

Ray said...

I remember Carson used to do an occasional riff on Ludicrous TV Pilots, where he'd just read the book blurb pitched to the networks and let the joke tell itself.

Yet I cannot remember a single one of the actual examples he used- except one. Mid-70s, described as "alien from another planet crash lands on earth and hiliarity ensues," or somesuch. It would have been as totally forgettable as the rest of them, except the name of the pilot stuck with me.

Mork and Mindy.

SharoneRosen said...

"Bette Davis as the leader of an all-female dance troupe that travels through the Old West."

Oh, man... I'd have paid extra to see that!

Dave Hire said...

"After George" sounds a little like the Twilight Zone episode "Uncle Simon".

Igor said...

POOCHINSKI NBC-1990 – Dog pilots were also big. Stanley Poochinski is a tough, ill-mannered cop who has been gunned down in the line of duty and reincarnated as a talking, flatulent English bulldog.

Maybe POOCHINSKI would have worked if only he'd been a belching English bulldog who talked out his ass.

And, ya know... It could work now - If they change him to a NYC bulldog and call the show TRUMP.

Mike Barer said...

The Seinfeld Chronicles could easily be on a list like that and we would be laughing our heads off at the thought of it being a successful show.

Mike Barer said...

Correction Bill Avena, Bono was in the House Of Rep. came in with the Gingrich revolution in 1994. His widow still represents that district.

John in Ohio said...

The thing is that almost any premise could work if the right people are on both sides of the camera.
3rd rock has a premise that could appear on this list, as do quantum leap, Mr ed, I dream of jeannie, and many more "classic" shows.

pumpkinhead said...

I saw the It's a Dog's Life pilot on youtube or whatever some years ago. OMG... Just OMG.

Also, good point from John in Ohio.

MikeK.Pa. said...

This covers through 1989. Is Lee working on the unsold pilots for the last quarter-century? I smell a sequel.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

YAZOO sounds like a Sid & Marty Krofft show. I mean come, how many times did they do shows about a somebody ending up in a strange land populated by puppets?

H.R. PUFNSTUF: Jimmy hops aboard a boat and is lured to Living Island by Witchiepoo so she can steal his magical talking flute.
LIDSVILLE: Mark falls into a magicians hat into the titular Lidsville, the world of talking hats.
LAND OF THE LOST: The Marshall family went down a waterfall and ended up in another dimension dominated by dinosaurs, ape-like creatures, and giant lizard people.
THE LOST SAUCER: Jerry and his babysitter, Alice, are brought aboard a saucer piloted by two futuristic androids, Fi and Fum, who take them to different eras of earth in the far past, and the future.
FAR OUT SPACE NUTS: Junior and Barney are two NASA commissary workers who accidentally launch themselves into outer space and keep crash-landing on a different alien planet week after week.

If YAZOO was reworked as a Saturday Morning show, it could have worked.

jcs said...

I can clearly recall watching JUSTIN CASE on German TV many years ago. I was delighted to see George Carlin but couldn't believe the authors went for a pun that silly.

Paul Duca said...

Ralph C..."Fountain of Youth" was aired on an anthology program, and became the only unsold TV pilot to win a Peabody Award
And it was produced by Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz's Desilu.

Paul Duca said...

Well played, Mike...I was thinking Donald Sutherland did a pilot when he was young and hungry when I went to it.

RCP said...

As an out-of-work actress, Bette Davis once placed an ad in Variety begging for decent roles. That might have been around the time of The Elizabeth McQueeny Story (she needed the cigarettes and Jack Daniels after getting that script). Not long after that came Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

RCP said...

Jim Beam

Ralph C. said...

Yup. And I saw why...it was great, to me.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@Mike There's a little misinformation in your post. The American networks didn't pass on THE MUPPET SHOW because of the hecklers, and Jim Henson didn't really have a target audience for the show (though he did want the show to appeal to adults); they passed on the show because at the time, Jim Henson was being stereotyped as a kiddy entertainer because of the Muppets association with SESAME STREET, and they believed THE MUPPET SHOW was a kiddy show, which had no place in primetime. The reason it was produced over in the U.K. was because Lord Lew Grade (who had previously gotten acquainted with Jim when the SESAME STREET Muppets were making annual specials with Julie Andrews) was the only one who was willing to take as risk with the show. It went straight to syndication in the U.S. because the networks turned it down, with the exception of a number of independently owned-and-operated CBS affiliates. THE MUPPET SHOW also had its share of British guests over its five-year run: Julie Andrews, Peter Ustinov, John Cleese, among others.

Mike Barer said...

I have always felt guilty because I am a staunch Democrat. When Sonny and Cher broke up, Sonny campaigned in Republican races, Cher was seen in Democratic circles. I always liked Sonny better.

Paul Duca said...

But you can't get any more Libertarian than Chastity...er, Chaz

Elliott said...

"Fountain of Youth" was filmed as the pilot for a potential anthology series. Orson Welles would host every week and, like Alfred Hitchcock, would direct episodes of the series from time to time. Desi Arnaz, who produced the show, asked only two things of Welles. First, that he not exceed his allotted budget. Second, that he not go over his shooting schedule. Welles being Welles, he proceeded to blow out both his budget AND his shooting schedule. As if that wasn't enough, he threw a lavish wrap party after filming was completed. The networks were all impressed, but after learning what Welles had done, none of them was willing to take a chance on him. Arnaz had seen the show as steady income for Welles, something the man needed badly at the time, and as a chance to prove to Hollywood that he could be cooperative. Arnaz would complain in later years that the incident led him to decide that Welles was his own worst enemy. A brilliant filmmaker, but self-destructive.

VP81955 said...

Ellioot, I'm wondering whether Lucille Ball persuaded Desi to take a chance of Welles, who was gaining plaudits at the time for his work as both director and actor on "Touch of Evil." Lucy knew Orson when both were at RKO in the early 1940s, and legend has it that she was among several actresses Welles sought for the female lead in what would have been his first studio feature film, an adaptation of the comedic thriller "The Smiler With a Knife." (I believe RKO dissuaded him, not believing Ball was yet of sufficient stature to star in a film of that rank.) The lady in my avatar (Carole Lombard, as all of you should know by now), also at RKO and quite friendly with Welles, also was said to be a candidate, but ultimately declined.

I don't know whether Lucy was invited to the world premiere of "Citizen Kane" at the El Capitan in May 1941, but I do know Lombard was -- but she decided not to attend for fear of offending her good friend Marion Davies. (Her mother Elizabeth Peters, who would die with her daughter in a plane crash the following January, attended in her stead.) However, Carole saw "Kane" in a private screening Welles hosted that fall; she reportedly loved the film, but husband Clark Gable, who also attended, fell asleep during the showing.

Jake Mabe said...

I'd give some serious cash if a copy of the "Murder in Music City" pilot still exists. (Probably would've been a hit -- sadly -- for ABC had it landed about 1968, if Sonny could handle two series and Cher at one time.)

Dave Zarkin said...

Merle Miller in the 60s in his "Dick Darling" book lampooned TV in a failed series staring Jackie Cooper at an Agricultural Extension agent; being developed by United Artists for CBS. Died a painful death.

Mike Doran said...

Just read both columns and comments; this covers both of them.

- Khigh Dhiegh, the star of Judge Dee, was born Kenneth Dickerson, of Anglo-Egyptian-Sudanese parentage, in New Jersey.
I'm pretty sure this means he wasn't Asian.

- Justin Case was one of Blake Edwards's attempts to get back into TV when his movies started flopping.
The pilots didn't fare much better; the only one that went to series was a Julie Andrews sitcom, and that one was burned off as a summer replacement.

_ Merle Miller's book, Only You, Dick Daring!, covered Miller's attempt to launch a series called Calhoun, about a county agent in the Southwest.
Jackie Cooper was the star/producer; the rest of the cast included Barbara Stanwyck, Howard Duff, Barbara Luna, Robert Lansing, and Beverly Garland.
The title refers to a CBS's executive's idea that the star character should be more of an action hero than Cooper had in mind ("50,000 murderous Berbers ... and only you, Dick Daring, can stop them!").
I've got the Miller book here at home, right next to Jackie Cooper's autobiography, which recounts the story somewhat differently.
Also, I have a not-too-good copy of the pilot itself on a collection of unsold pilots, one of a number I have on my DVD wall.
Sometimes I feel like an appeals court judge ...

Joseph Scarbrough said...

Wasn't Jackie Cooper the infamous M*A*S*H director who had personal vendettas against just about all of the castmembers, especially Alan Alda and Gary Burghoff?

Lee Goldberg said...

Jackie Cooper's CALHOUN is available on YouTube...

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zSHuY0VfQ3E

Lee Goldberg said...

Ralph C -- That CBS special was based on my book and produced by yours truly. I wrote and produced a second special, THE BEST TV SHOWS THAT NEVER WERE, for ABC. You can see it here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J7fu7Nn_Tdk

It includes clips from POOCHINSKI and K-9000.

jbryant said...

"The Elizabeth McQueeny Story" was produced as an episode of Wagon Train. Since Wagon Train was made up of stand-alone episodes, they often made such backdoor pilots. I believe all Wagon Train episodes were titled "The (Fill in the Blank) Story." If the Bette Davis pilot had gone to series, it would've been titled "Madame's Palace."

Brian said...

Speaking of the Fat Man, one of my favorite lines from Almost Perfect is "Nobody directs the Fat Man!"

Molly said...

Man, I really wanna see the pilot for "A Dog's Life"! Does anyone have a copy to upload?

Joseph Scarbrough said...

@jbryant GREEN ACRES did that with their last two episodes: the first of the two had Oliver and Lisa take a second honeymoon in Hawaii at a resort where the manager's hippy daughter had free range of the place - the resort, the hippy girl, and the other employees and guests were to be the focus of a spin-off that was never produced; the second of the two involved Oliver calling up his former secretary in New York for his old jeweler's contact information to get his watch fixed, while the rest of the episode established said former secretary (who was a ditzy blonde like Lisa) and her family and friends - that spin-off was never produced either. Then again, this was at the time of the Rural Purge, so those two backdoor pilots would probably have never been picked up anyway.